When going through divorce proceedings in Bergen County, there is typically one form of marital property that neither you nor your soon-to-be-ex-spouse will want: your debt. Yet just as New Jersey law mandates that marital assets be subject to equitable division, so too does it require that debts accrued during a marriage get the same treatment. Equitable, however, does not necessarily mean equal. Rather, it calls for the fair division of both assets and debts.
The criteria for determining equitable distribution can be found in Section 2A:34-23.1 of New Jersey’s Revised Statutes. The few factors listed below may have a direct impact on the amount of marital debt you are assigned:
- The duration of your marriage: The longer your marriage, the greater the chances you and your spouse assumed debt by through activities like buying a home or vehicles together, starting a business, or putting one of you through school.
- Your individual income and earning capacity: Depending on how much each of you makes from your careers, the court may view assigning an even portion of debt as placing one of you in a financial hardship.
- What debts and liabilities you currently have: Mortgage debt is viewed and treated differently than consumer debt (including credit cards). Special considerations will have to be made if one of you needs to keep the house in order to shelter the kids.
The court also considers the contribution each of you made to the acquisition of your marital property. That includes liabilities such as credit card debt. Thus, if your spouse was responsible for assuming most of the consumer debt during your marriage, any outstanding liabilities associated with it may become his or hers to settle (only if, however, the court believes he or she has the resources to do so).